It’s no secret that a strong recurring giving program provides a necessary foundation for any nonprofit. Reliable revenue means, of course, that you can keep the lights on, but it also means you have a steady base of supporters committed to your cause. It means you can forecast growth with confidence, and it speaks strongly to the overall health of your nonprofit.
But building a strong recurring giving program isn’t always easy. We turned to Erica Waasdorp, a well-known author and expert in recurring donor growth and retention, and gave her our webinar stage. Erica generated plenty of engagement from the hundreds of nonprofits tuned in to hear her tips. If you missed the webinar, you could watch the recording. If you’re short on time and want to review the main points, keep reading!
Recurring Giving Trends
Erica surprised many on the webinar when she showed that recurring donors are trending younger. Gen Z gives monthly more often than they do occasionally! This is a golden nugget of information for nonprofits hoping to build their sustainer program. With robust fundraising software, nonprofits can segment their donors and use personalized outreach to entice those Gen Z supporters to become recurring donors and sustainers.
Monthly giving, as a percentage of online revenue, continues to grow year over year. With a steady influx of unrestricted revenue, your team can apply the funds to the programs you choose. Donors, too, have a choice—they are able to set the amount and frequency of gifts according to their preferences.
This slide illustrates the cumulative fundraising difference between 100 and 500 monthly donors. As you can see, the results are dramatic and illustrate why nonprofits will want to focus on building this program.
Your nonprofit isn’t the only one benefiting from monthly donations. The reason they’re still gaining popularity is because they appeal to donors, too. Erica reinforced that donors want to help. Monthly giving is easy and fits their budget.
Erica issued a challenge: calculate your annualized value from monthly giving. You’ll be surprised by its value, and you'll be more dedicated to growing your program.
How Technology Can Help Your Recurring Donor Program Grow
CharityEngine is proud to offer clients a 98% sustainer retention rate. The more donors you retain, the stronger your nonprofit will be. But no matter which fundraising software your nonprofit uses, there are some features that will support your monthly giving growth. Can your technology do these things?
- Segment your donors so you can leverage personalized outreach
- Offer email automation so your donors are thanked and otherwise engaged immediately
- Provide advanced reporting to identify and nurture potential monthly givers—and to find missed payments
- Employ credit card updating and retry logic to increase collection on monthly pledges
- Give you the freedom to customize sustainer dashboards
- Provide donors with a self-service portal so they have control over their giving and contact information
Each technology feature you can use that supports your monthly giving program will help you find and retain the donors you need to sustain a powerful program.
Ways to Acquire Recurring Donors
To build this program, Erica recommends committing to an endeavor and having someone in charge that will be held accountable. Her magic ingredients for acquiring donors are asking for commitments, having systems that can handle monthly giving programs, requesting tangible amounts, and using storytelling to draw sustainers to your mission. She says it’s nothing terribly different from your one-time giving pushes…you’re just asking for a monthly gift instead.
A practical tip is to have a monthly giving-only page. Come up with a one-liner that succinctly explains the benefits of a monthly gift instead of a one-time gift. A mini-story, as she calls them, can nudge donors to commit. It’s benefit-driven, it’s short, and it’s compelling. And it works.
Your donation form can also help encourage one-time givers to make a more regular commitment. Ensure donors can easily consider a monthly gift and plenty of payment options.
If your system allows it, create a monthly-only form. If donors don’t have the option for a one-time gift, they’ll consider a recurring gift. If you link to the monthly-only page from the home page, it’s proven to generate organic recurring donors. Put that “Give Monthly” button on emails and other correspondence and send that traffic to your dedicated page.
And whether you have ten or 10,000 monthly donors, Erica recommends asking them why they give monthly. These powerful testimonials can help convert new monthly donors. Sending a survey that brings your donors to a Google sheet is a powerful way to gather social proof.
Integrating Recurring Donor Messaging into Campaigns
Once you have the web page dedicated to monthly donors, use it everywhere! Stick it on social media. Add it to your email signature. Plop it in your welcome emails. If you send direct mail, include it as an option on your appeal reply form. And take it a step further…ask them to commit to monthly donations, then ask them for their bank account information!
If you offer different giving options, perhaps offer these: mail a check, donate online, or start automatic monthly donations. You might get smaller amounts from a monthly donation, but amortized, it will almost always be more dollars than a one-time or infrequent gift.
Erica mentioned research that says the sooner you can get a donor to commit to a monthly gift, the longer they will stay and the more loyal they will be. So try to get them to make a monthly gift within the first month of coming aboard.
Donors are multichannel. They see emails, they open mail, they scroll social media, they read texts. If you have a giving day, plug it on all your channels and launch a sustainer drive. This is a powerful way to build an integrated campaign.
How to Steward Monthly Donors Once You Get Them
You got ‘em. Let’s keep ‘em! Make your recurring donors feel special, but make your promises doable. You can update donors on how their gifts are helping but set frequency expectations low so you don’t disappoint supporters invested in your mission.
You don’t want to have to send monthly thank-you notes. Let your donors know that you’ll update them on your mission and give an overview of what you’ve accomplished every January.
Erica said that a personal touch makes all the difference here. Even if a donation was made online, send a handwritten thank-you note. It confirms the gift went through and lets donors have a personal interaction…they feel valued.
Another helpful idea (there were so many!) is to add a story to donation receipts. Most software will let you customize the receipts, so add a few lines about someone or something that donation served.
Always reuse and repurpose. Video is a phenomenal way to engage supporters, so if you shoot a thank-you video for social media, throw it in emails. Use good ideas over and over!
Erica recommends creating a retention day every month. Map out your processes, check payments and reports, check for feedback, quantify the annual value at risk (or who might you lose this month? How can you keep them?), and then consider the follow-up to be a courtesy to a donor. Sometimes, donors intend to give and just need that reminder or notification that they’ve lapsed.
Resources for Nonprofits
At CharityEngine, we’re big fans of Erica and the work she does. She can help any nonprofit develop a roaring good recurring-giving program! If you want to learn more, connect with her on LinkedIn or sign up for her blog. And, of course, we’d love to hear from you if you’re looking for new software or want to get our insights in your inbox!